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Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Aug 21;103(8):088101. Epub 2009 Aug 17.

Hydrodynamic phase locking of swimming microorganisms.

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla California 92093-0411, USA.


Some microorganisms, such as spermatozoa, synchronize their flagella when swimming in close proximity. Using a simplified model (two infinite, parallel, two-dimensional waving sheets), we show that phase locking arises from hydrodynamics forces alone, and has its origin in the front-back asymmetry of the geometry of their flagellar waveform. The time evolution of the phase difference between coswimming cells depends only on the nature of this geometrical asymmetry, and microorganisms can phase lock into conformations which minimize or maximize energy dissipation.

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